DEFENDING MY BUNK AGAINST ALL COMERS, SIR!
Hundreds of thousands of young men gathered nervously around television sets on the evening of Dec. 1, 1969, during the height of an increasingly unpopular Vietnam conflict. It wasn’t to watch a ball game or a special hour of “Gunsmoke,” but rather to take in the first Selective Service lottery since the Second World War.
Numbered ping-pong balls from 1 through 366, drawn from a hopper, determined the order in which men born between 1944 and 1950 would be called into the Armed Services by the nation’s 4,000 draft boards.
Birth dates determined futures. A high number meant you could get on with your life. A low number meant that life was turned upside down.
Writer Garret Mathews was in college at the time of the draft lottery. His ridiculously low number earned him an unwanted stint in the Army, and its requisite boot camp that represented a 180-degree turnaround from carefree campus days.
Like many on the dorm, Mathews was convinced college guys would face even harsher treatment because the military wanted to get even with them for doodling pictures of Nixon with a ponytail. He explores this anxiety-ridden transition in humorous fashion in his new book, “Defending My Bunk Against All Comers, Sir!” that’s published by Zone Press, an imprint of Rogers Publishing in Denton, Texas.
In the partially autobiographical story, we meet an assorted cast of platoon mates to include an anti-war protester who was living in a commune, a budding lawyer who brought his pillow from home and a sharecropper’s son who came to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in bedroom slippers – the only pair of shoes he owned.
There’s the grenade throw, the rifle range, the gas chamber, the drill sergeant with a cinderblock for a forehead and learning the proper way to make a bed – a skill that’s almost as important to the Pentagon as taking out enemy fire bases.
“The Army is a melting pot where people of every shade of life are thrown together, and Mathews brings this pot to a boil, opening up vistas of behavior never before known to the civilized world,” says Mort Walker, creator of the Beetle Bailey cartoon strip. “He is a very funny writer. This is a hilarious book.”
“Defending My Bunk Against All Comers, Sir!
is available by accessing the publisher’s web site at
During a 35-year career, Mathews has penned more than 6,200 columns for the Bluefield, W. Va., Daily Telegraph and The Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press on every subject from Appalachian snake-handlers to mail-order brides. He has written six books to include “Swing, Batta” about coaching 10-year-old baseball players that got a nice review in The New York Times. His theatrical play, “Jubilee in the Rear-View Window” about the civil rights movement in fictional Jubilee, Miss., in 1964, was recently published.
Mathews graduated from Abingdon, Va., High School in 1967 and Virginia Tech in 1971.